Toxoplasmosis is parasitic infection that can affect babies, adolescents, and adults. Cats are the host of the parasite, toxoplasma gondii. Commonly it doesn’t cause illness in humans but people with immune deficiencies and serious health conditions have an increased risk of becoming infected with this type of infection. When symptoms aren’t present treatment isn’t necessary. If there are symptoms they will be present about 1-2 weeks after contact with the parasite. Congenital toxoplasmosis is when the parasite infects an unborn baby through an infected mother. It can cause birth defects and medical problems so it is often recommended that pregnant women take precautions to prevent becoming infected.

Sources of Toxoplasmosis Infection

  • Solid organ transplants
  • Blood transfusions
  • Contaminated soil
  • Consuming raw or undercooked meat
  • Insects that have contact with cat feces

When having contact with anything that may be contaminated with toxoplasma, infection can be prevented with thorough hand washing. This is especially important before eating or touching the mouth. Some humans, certain species of animals, and some birds can carry the parasite and never have symptoms. Once symptoms appear then treatment will be necessary.

Symptoms

When a person is infected with this parasite if symptoms are going to appear it happens within a couple weeks after contact. These are some of the symptoms that can present themselves:

More serious symptoms may include confusion, blurred vision, and seizures. When toxoplasmosis is suspected the most common test that is done is a blood test. When the tests are positive, it will be treated with anti-malarial medications or antibiotics. When antibiotics are used it can increase the risk of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) at a later date. Pregnant women will need to be treated differently to reduce the risks of birth defects in their unborn baby.

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Pregnant Women And The Risk Of Congenital Toxoplasmosis To Unborn Babies

During the pregnancy or during the birth an infant may become infected with Toxoplasma gondii. When it occurs before birth the baby may be born with birth defects. The earlier in the pregnancy the baby is infected the more severe the birth defects may be. When it occurs during the birth the symptoms may be milder and will not cause birth defects. The following are symptoms of congenital toxoplasmosis:

  • Liver or spleen swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Retina inflammation
  • Low birth weight
  • Hearing problems
  • Rash
  • Optical issues

The defects can be neurological effecting intellect, causing seizures, and affecting head size. The lymph nodes may swell up in response to the infection.

Treatment begins with treating the mother and the baby, which can be done before the baby is born. Once the baby is born he or she can be treated independently. Often treatment will last for the infants first year. When there are birth defects present the treatment may last a lifetime. More information can be found from the US National Library of Medicine’s site, Congenital toxoplasmosis – PubMed Health.

Conclusion

Toxoplasmosis is not common mostly due to people being aware and taking precautions to prevent being infected by this parasite.